13 December 2008

Librarians as "wee timerous beasties"

As a follow-up to my post of 9 Dec., Dr. LeClerc's three sets of responses to NY Times readers are available here. LeClerc did answer a significant number of reader queries and for that, I commend him. He even tackled a couple questions regarding the now-defunct Donnell Library Center, a library whose loss has engendered a significant public outcry. [Update: Check out some amazing pics of Donnell deconstructed at Driven By Boredom.]

On the whole, however, LeClerc's responses fit the smooth, benign style of a typical bureaucrat. No surprise there! He did not reply to the vitriolic scree I quoted in my earlier post, nor to this lament from a retired librarian and current NYPL volunteer. I know I'm focusing on the negative here, but these are valid questions that deserve a response. And then there's this:

Is it correct that libraries are no longer headed by librarians but by “site managers” without library degrees? What’s wrong with librarians with degrees? Site manager sounds like someone who can handle a computer crash and crowd control better than knowing what books are on the shelves. It seems to me you’ve put in charge a new breed of librarian, wee timerous beasties, who can be cowed by your administrators.

Is it correct? According to the Library Site Manager job description available on the New York Public Library Guild's website, the answer is yes. The position requires a B.A. "or an equivalent combination of education and experience". Current Branch Managers get "first crack" at these lower-qualification positions which are, at least, unionized (more details here). Some Local 1930 members "feel [this] will enable the Library to reduce the ranks of librarians and 'de-professionalize' the job by piling on administrative duties that don’t require the knowledge they gained in graduate school." No kidding! Considering the current economic climate, does NYPL have the funds for 80 new positions? What do branch librarians really think about this development? So many questions....

Another update: Nate Hill created a neat Wordle cloud composed of words from the NY Times article's comments. Check it out here and on the PLA Blog:

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